Fairly or unfairly, thoughts of bourbon and the summertime make us think about a woozy southern drawl, quite possibly coming out of the mouth of an older gentleman who’s sitting on a deck chair in seersucker, finishing up an old tale while the sun sinks into the horizon like a melting cherry popsicle and…wait, what the hell were we talking about?
Oh yeah. Bourbon and summer, dear friends and allies in the mission to keep us all pleasantly immobilized for a month or two. And yes, they make us weirdly nostalgic for the halcyon days of a southern summer childhood some of us never actually had. But that doesn’t mean we can’t pretend (it’s summer, after all).
To fuel our seasonal whimsy, nine distinct bourbon-based summer cocktails. Especially since most of us aren’t drinking whiskey straight this time of year, we figured it might be nice to have a bunch of different ways to keep bourbon on seasonal rotation (OK, there are two lemonades, but it’s summer). From fresh berries to pig fat to the sweet-savory kick of five-spice syrup, we gathered some of the best of bourbon, shaken and stirred, to keep your summer nice and languid.
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Don’t let the name of the site freak you out—emphasis is fully on the “Garden” part here, with a lighter take on the bourbon classic. An herbal simple syrup from the author of The Drunken Botanist lets you play around with whiskey in ways you probably haven’t.
Learning how to infuse bourbon with bacon is a skill that’ll yield a lifetime of joy (check here). Once you’ve got that down, you can make any number of bacon-bourbon cocktails, like this one with fresh fig puree and Punt e Mes (you can sub sweet vermouth).
Say “lemonade” and you’ve already got summer in a glass. Add some plump blackberries and a generous dose of bourbon, you’re suddenly holding that glass on an imaginary wrap-around porch facing the beach/lake/rolling meadow of your dreams. Cardamom and bitters add some complexity, but nothing to keep you from focusing on…absolutely nothing at all.
The only proximity to heat you’ll have to endure is when you’re making the jalapeno simple syrup (very easy, trust us). OK, when you take a sip, you’ll also have some proximity to heat, thanks to that spicy simple syrup, but fresh watermelon juice and cooling mint balance it out to the point where you may indeed be chugging this stuff. In which case, let the sweat drops pour down your face and ask for seconds.
Fresh herb simple syrups add an extra step to a cocktail recipe, yes, but you’ll end up with plenty to spare (and you can use them in other, even non-cocktail, recipes…though, why?). Thyme and honey make the base of this simple, fresh bourbon drink. If you can’t get your hands on Meyer lemons, regular will do. Just make sure you use your favorite bourbon, and then everything will seem just fine.
Speaking of fresh herbs, you should check out lemon verbena (and not just because it can be used to make a calming tea). It has a delicate, almost perfume-like lemon quality to it, with a little lacing of “green” that makes the overall flavor totally unique. And that flavor shines in this prim take on a whiskey sour, with bourbon and angostura and lemon stirred and strained for your summer sipping pleasure.
A homemade five-spice syrup is the major player in this drink (we’re wondering if you can’t buy five spice seasoning already mixed?). If you have time on a languid summer day, prep the syrup fresh, since the cocktail is so simple you’ll want both spice and bourbon to be top notch. Sweet and spicy (even slightly savory), this recipe makes a full pitcher for you and (we assume) at least one guest.
Boy do we wish there were lemonade stands for adults, because this would be a huge money maker. Another lemonade cocktail because it’s summer and when the hell else do we get to drink lemonade? This one’s really simple, minimalism at its boozy best. (Just don’t mix it up with what you’re serving to the kids.)
Peach gets all the cred in summer, but let’s not forget the lovely little apricot, especially when we’re working with bourbon. This recipe doesn’t call for fresh apricots but apricot jam, so you’ll get a lot of concentrated flavor, mixed in with Mediterranean-in-a-bottle Limoncello and, of course, quality bourbon, topped off with a delicate hit of fresh sage. Just ’cause it’s lazy summer doesn’t mean we can’t still be fancy.
Header image via AThoughtforFood.Net